Review: Gourmet Burger Kitchen
When my sister announced she would be visiting Cardiff this Christmas, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with her for a spot of lunch. I found myself Googling the menu of just about every city centre restaurant I could think of, eager to make a selection, before coming back down-to-earth and realising just how skint I actually was.
I needed to find somewhere cheap but chic to lunch in Cardiff - somewhere that appealed as much to my purse as it did to my stomach.
I've always been curious about Gourmet Burger Kitchen. This upmarket burger chain was founded in 2001 by three Kiwis who wanted to make burgers with fresh, quality ingredients like the ones they ate in New Zealand. The first restaurant opened in Battersea, London, and there are now over fifty branches of GBK throughout the UK.
I used to pass one of these restaurants almost daily, peeking at the menu and ogling diners' dinners. But I never went in. The thought of sitting alone in a fancy fast-food outlet, trying desperately to hold a giant burger in my hands let alone cram it into my gob really demolishes my appetite.
With my sister and her friend in tow, there was safety in numbers. And after discovering we could eat at GBK for little more than the price of a measly McDonald's, there was no going back.
Stepping into the restaurant was like entering a sea-side beach shack. A mixture of white and sky-blue, the wood-panelled walls were adorned with colourful canvas photographs of sun-kissed teens, surfboards and camper vans against a backdrop of sun, sea and sand. One wall actually looked as though somebody had walked across it sideways, leaving a trail of flip-flops behind.
No sooner had we begun to wish we'd brought our beach towels than we were approached by a friendly waitress with an exotic accent. Inviting us to choose a table, she asked if we had visited before, handed us some menus and told us to place our orders at the front desk when we were ready.
A sucker for all-things Christmas, I was immediately drawn to the festive three-course menu. After much deliberation, I opted for Cajun chicken bites followed by a camembert and cranberry chicken burger served with chunky chips, and a mince pie for dessert. Appealingly, it only cost £11.95. One vintage-style bottle of Coca-Cola later, my bill still didn't exceed £15. My sister ordered a 100% Aberdeen Angus beef burger with blue cheese whilst her friend went for the barbecue version, each priced at £6.25. They shared some onion rings for £3, making sure to order a fresh pot of garlic sauce for dipping, at £1.25. As we waited for the food to arrive, we admired the retro tomato-shaped ketchup containers sitting on each table.
After about five minutes, the waitress brought my starter of Cajun chicken bites to the table. Served in a small ceramic bowl with a creamy sweet chilli dip, they were a gorgeous golden brown with a sprinkling of red chilli flakes. As I bit through the crispy outer layer my teeth sank into the warm spicy chicken inside, and the sauce really served to accentuate the flavours.
Our main course arrived about ten minutes later, and looked and tasted just as good as the starter.
Staring down at the humongous burger on my plate, I began to wish I hadn't ordered a three-course meal. A large crumbed chicken fillet sat wedged between slabs of camembert, cranberry sauce, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, all sandwiched between a toasted sesame seed bap and held together by a wooden skewer. I thought about the best way to tackle this beast of a burger, but in the end just picked the whole thing up, fingers outstretched, and took the biggest bite I could. It was heaven.
My sister and Vicky clearly felt the same about their food, as we had been sat in silence for the best part of three minutes. Tearing myself away from my plate, I asked them if their burgers were as good as mine. Through mouthfuls of beef, they told me they were really impressed with the quality of the meat, comparing it to the reformed rubbish dished up in Burger King and McDonald's.
It was obvious we weren't going to get through all of our burgers, so the chips and onion rings went up for sharing. A generous portion, the chips were just how chips should be big, fat and fresh. Likewise, the onion rings had a firm crispy coating and didn't taste like processed mush. Both went really well with Vicky's garlic sauce, which was strong enough to ward off vampires for a lifetime.
With about a quarter of my burger remaining and my stomach about to explode, I finally admitted defeat. Had I not been so full I might've minded that my mince pie still hadn't put in an appearance, but as it was I was stuffed and needed a fag.
We left the restaurant feeling really satisfied. The burgers were the best we'd ever had and to top it all off, my purse felt as full as my stomach.
Unit 2 Library Building
Tel: 02920 668 379
Fax: 02920 236 395
Mon to Thu: 12pm 10pm
Fri: 12pm 11pm
Sat: 11am 11pm
Sun: 11am 10pm